When asking someone about their language ability, we frequently ask if they are fluent or not. This seems to be the litmus test, describing the ability to interact perfectly with native speakers. While this can be helpful in some contexts, it does not say anything about their academic ability.
You are probably familiar with the many language tests available, from TOEFL to IELTS to Duolingo and everything in between. Each has a different way of categorising students, using unique testing that aims to simulate real-life situations. Put simply, the score may gain you admissions into university but does not guarantee that you will thrive once there. What is the point of getting into an elite program but are forced to look up “every second word”.
The Common European Framework of Reference (for language) standardised all European languages into phases. In other words, A1 covers the introductory material for French, just as it does for English and Portuguese. Each stage has specific goals and objectives, introducing new vocabulary, literary devices, idioms and so forth. No, you do not need to reach C2 in order to be functional in society! In fact, most people do not draw on this “word-bank” unless the situation calls for it.
While this can be useful in understanding other language families-like Asia or Semitic-it is not as straightforward. Reason being, other languages require more time to develop a sufficient background prior to having a basic conversation or reading a simple text. However, European languages are designed in such a way that one can function after the first stage or so, that is being able to order food in a restaurant and explain your poor parking job to a local police officer. By organising the language in such a way, learners can pace themselves accordingly and ensure that they are following the most efficient route forward.
People falsely assume that C2 is the same level as a native speaker. This is not the case as much of the material is covered in late education, at a point when many opt-out. For example, if someone is looking forward to having a career in the skilled-trades, it may not be in their best interest to learn a niche vocabulary that is far outside their daily life. In fact, most oral communication is done at the B1-B2 level, ensuring that the lion’s share of people can understand. On the flip side, people who use excessively difficult language can be seen as “weird” and “out of place”.
If you are looking at university, which many of you are, C2 should be your goal regardless of where you grew up. This allows you to function in all areas of society, from government to society to commerce. Nothing will get over your head, even some obscure cultural references that make other people confused and uncomfortable. It is like having a whole bunch of tools in your toolbox but the wisdom to only take out the right one. C2 learners can understand everything with ease, offering unique feedback that adds to the conversation. This is the bedrock of solid essay writing, an activity that students become closely familiar with once they start their post-secondary education.
How Do I Get There?
Sadly, one cannot get to C2 using an app alone, although they are helpful when used in tandem with formal classes. For example, Duolingo can give you the “building blocks” of language but it cannot teach you to put it together efficiently and organically. Many students find that they get stuck around B2 and cannot rise above the glass ceiling. The best way of getting there is to work with an expert tutor, one who can deliver the course material in a fun and creative way. To put it simply, the tutor can find the student’s interest and do a “deep dive” on the content, allowing them to develop their language skills and critical thinking in the process.
If you are interested in rising to the top, C2 is your “ticket to ride”. It does not guarantee you anything but allows you to pursue careers in law, politics, medicine and the professions. Inspiration Learning Center has been helping students for over 20 years, allowing them to go from ESL right through to the Ivy League. We are experts at mastering tests, raising report cards and getting students ready for life.